Max Duncker
The History of Antiquity, Vol. 1 (of 6)

The History of Antiquity, Vol. 1 (of 6)
Evelyn Abbott

Max Duncker

Max Duncker

The History of Antiquity, Vol. 1 (of 6)



Fifty years ago, the opinion was held by some that we could watch, in the tradition of the most ancient realms of the East, the first awkward steps in the childhood of the human race, while others believed that it was possible to discover there the remnants of an original wisdom, received by mankind at the beginning of their course immediately from the hand of heaven. The monuments of the East, subsequently discovered and investigated by the combined labour of English, German, and French scholars, have added an unexpected abundance of fresh information to the Hebrew Scriptures and the narratives of the Greeks, which, till then, were almost our only resource. No one can any longer be ignorant that Hither Asia at a very remote period was in possession of a rich and many-sided civilisation. The earliest stages of that civilisation in the valley of the Nile, of the Euphrates and the Tigris, on the coasts and in the interior of Syria are, it is true, entirely hidden from our knowledge; even the far more recent culture of the Aryan tribes we can only trace with the help of the Veda and the Avesta back to the point at which they were already acquainted with agriculture, and possessed considerable artistic skill.

Our object in regard to the ancient East is not to retrace the beginning of human civilization, but rather to understand and establish the value and extent of those early phases of civilisation to which the entire development of the human race goes back. The way to this aim is clearly sketched out for us. A minute comparison of tradition with the results of the successful advance of Oriental studies, a conscientious examination of the one by the other, opens out to us the prospect of discerning more precisely the nature of those ancient constitutions and modes of life.

To this purpose I have undertaken to contribute by a descriptive treatment of the subject. Such an attempt appeared to me indicated by the consideration that the fragments of our knowledge – and more than fragments we do not at present possess, and never shall possess, even though we assume that the number of monuments be considerably increased – if conscientiously brought together, would produce the most effective impression by exhibiting the connection of all the various sides of those ancient civilisations – and if to this collection were added the conclusions that can be drawn from it and from the monuments about the political life, the religion, the manners and laws, the art and trade of those nations.

How to offer in a general survey the sum total of these fragments of the ancient East is a problem attended with difficulties which I have felt at every step in my work. There are not many corner-stones immovably fixed; the outlines are often to be drawn with a wavering pen; the unavoidable explanations of the gaps to be filled up admit of a variety of opinions. Hence it is often – only too often – necessary to interrupt the narrative by comments, in order to support the view taken by the author, or refute other views, or arrive at the conclusion that there is no sufficient evidence for a final decision. The best mode of remedying these disagreeable interruptions was first to state the tradition, which is generally closely connected with the peculiar nature of the people whose fortunes it narrates, and if not actually true, is nevertheless characteristic of the manners and views of the nation, and then to examine this tradition in and by itself, and in conjunction with the monuments; to state the opposite interpretations; and, finally, to give the results thus obtained. In this way narrative and investigation are combined in such a manner that the reader is enabled to pursue the inquiry. The data and the critical examination of them, and lastly the results obtained, are put before him for his own decision.

The objections, made of late to the results of Assyrian researches, touch certain points only, in which over-hasty conclusions have prematurely declared the enigma to be solved. Whatever doubts may still remain, I have felt the more confidence in following the main results, because wherever Asshur and Israel come into contact the Hebrew Scriptures agree with the records of the kings of Asshur. Who could understand the meaning of the verses of Nahum (iii. 8-10), of the fate of "No-Ammon, to whose aid came Ethiopians, Arabians, and Libyans," till G. Smith discovered the document of Assurbanipal relating to the capture of Thebes? Who could explain the words of Ezekiel about the grave of Elam (xxxii. 27) till the tiles of Babylonia and Assyria told us of the ancient supremacy and power of this kingdom, and of its battles with the Assyrians, and subjugation by their arms? If, in chronology, I have given the preference to the tablets of the Assyrian Archons over the Books of Kings, I have done so, not because I hold the former to be infallible, but because the chronological dates in the Books of Kings prove, by more than one contradiction, that they have not come down to us intact.

My narrative embraces those independent civilisations of the ancient East which came to exercise a mutual influence on each other. First we follow the realm on the Nile and the kingdoms of Hither Asia as far as the point where the nations of Iran began to influence their destinies. Then I attempt to set forth the peculiar development of the Aryan tribes in the valleys of the Indus and the Ganges, down to the times of Tshandragupta and Asoka. Then follows the history of the Bactrians, the Medes, and the Persians, until the period when the nations of the table-land of Iran were united by Cyrus and Darius with the countries of Western Asia, when Aryan life and Aryan civilisation gained the supremacy over the whole region from Ceylon to the Nile and the Hellespont. The forms of life at which the great empires of Asia had arrived are finally brought face to face with the more youthful civilisation attained by the Hellenes in their mountain cantons. This new development we follow down to the first great shock when East and West met in conflict, and the Achæmenids sought to crush the Hellenes under the weight of Asia. With the failure of this attempt my history of the ancient world concludes.

    Max Duncker.

Berlin, March, 1877.





History knows nothing of her infancy. The beginning of the development of the human race lies beyond the sphere of memory, and so also do the first steps in that development. The early stages of culture – whether in nations or individuals – are unconscious, and unobservant of self; they are therefore without the conditions which make remembrance possible. The original forms of social life in the family and in the tribe, the movement of wandering hunters and shepherds, the earliest steps in agriculture, could leave behind them neither monuments nor records. It is true no gifted or favoured nation, which has raised itself above these beginnings to civic life and independent culture, has neglected to cast a backward glance upon the history of its past. Everywhere the attempt has been made to present the past from the later point of culture. Whether the memory reaches but a little way, or goes back far into the past, it is always enriched by ideas taken from religious conceptions, or national pride, from reflection or theory. Such reconstructions are significant of the nature and character of the people for whom they replace the history of their youth, but they have no claim to represent the actual course of their development. The case is different when the growing culture of a people is observed by nations already at a higher grade of civilisation. The Romans were in a position to leave behind a picture of the youthful German tribes; the Byzantines could inform us of the movements of the Slaves; modern Europe could observe the tribes of America, the nomadic shepherds of Asia, and the islanders of the South Sea from a higher and riper point of development.

The oldest kingdoms of which tradition and monuments preserve any information passed unobserved through the earliest stages of their culture. Tradition and the earliest monuments present them already in the possession of a many-sided and highly-developed civilisation. In what way these nations, the oldest representatives of the culture of mankind, arrived at their possession, we can only deduce from such evidence as is before us anterior to tradition and independent of it – from the nature of the regions where these civilisations sprung up, from the physical character and constitution of the nations which developed them, from their languages and their religious ideas.

The history of antiquity is the description of the forms of culture first attained by the human race. If it is impossible to discover the origin of these forms historically, and the attempt is made to indicate their preliminary stages, so far as the recorded elements allow connected conclusions, it becomes the chief object of such a history to recover from the fragments of monuments and tradition the culture of the ancient East, and of the Hellenes so closely connected with the East: to reconstruct from isolated relics and myths the image of that rich and ample life which filled the East in religion and state, in art and industry, in research and commerce, in political struggles and intense religious devotion, long before the time when Solon gave laws to the Athenians, and the army of Cyrus trod the shore of the Ægean Sea.

The oldest civilisation, the oldest state grew up on that quarter of the globe which seems least favourable to the development of mankind. On either side of the equator, Africa stretches out in huge land-locked masses. A vast table-land occupies the whole south of the continent, and in the north sinks down to a plain more impassable even than the broad seas which wash the coasts of Africa on the west, south, and east. This plain – the bed of a dry sea – lies in the burning sun without vegetation. Only where springs water the thirsty soil do fruitful islands rise out of the moving sand, the lonely waste of ravines, the craggy ridges, and bald platforms of rock.

As the sea nowhere indents the coasts of Africa with deep bays, the rivers cannot excavate broad and fruitful valleys, and provide means of access to the interior. The high table-land is surrounded by a steep rampart of mountains, which descend in terraces to the coast, and here, almost without exception, leave narrow strips of low and marshy land. Through the barrier drawn around them by this rampart the rivers must force their path in a violent course, in waterfalls and rapids, in order to fall into the sea after a short, and proportionately more sluggish course through the narrow strip on the shore.

The table-land, its rampart of mountains, and the long lines of coast, are, with the exception of the southern apex and the Alpine territory of Abyssinia in the east, the dwelling-places of the black race – the negro. However great the number of negro nations and tribes, however much they differ in physical form and in dialect – living as they do beneath a vertical sun, in regions difficult of access – they have never risen beyond the infancy of human civilisation – a rude worship of gods. Wherever they have not been powerfully affected by the introduction of foreign elements, generation has followed generation without remembrance or essential alteration.

The north coast of Africa is of a different character to the rest of the continent. While the western coast looks to the broad Atlantic Ocean, and the waves which break on the southern apex lead to the ice of the pole, the north coast is separated from the neighbouring shores by a basin of moderate extent. It is a mountainous district which fills up the space between the Sahara and the Mediterranean. Towards the west the peaks of Atlas reach, even in this climate, to the region of eternal snow; on the east, towards the mouths of the Nile, the hills gradually sink down, and the plain of Barca rises little more than 1,000 feet above the sea level. Numerous chains of hills, at one time pressing close upon the sea, at another leaving more extensive plains upon the coast, cover the northern edge, which along the deep valleys of the mountain streams exhibits that vigorous and luxuriant vegetation so characteristic of Africa when not checked by want of water, although even these fruitful valleys are again in their turn broken by droughty, and therefore bare, table-lands and depressions.

On this northern coast, toward the Mediterranean, opens the valley which, in extent of fruitful territory, is the largest in the whole continent. It occupies the north-east corner of Africa, which is only separated from Arabia by a narrow strip of sea, and carries its gleaming waters through the wide space from the subsidence of the table-land down to the coast, where for almost its whole remaining breadth the continent is filled up with the desert of Sahara.

From the north-east spur of the table-land, out of vast lakes (Ukerewe), fed from the glaciers and snows of huge mountains lying under the equator, and passing through the lower lake Mwutan, flows the western arm of the Nile, the White Nile, Bahr-el-Abiad. After bursting through the terraces of the mountain, it reaches, at the foot, a woody morass, filled with thickets of tamarisks and sycamores, of bamboo and reeds and tall creepers, inhabited by the elephant and rhinoceros, the hippopotamus and the crocodile, the zebra and hyena, by antelopes and snakes. Then the stream passes into broad savannas, covered here and there with tropic forests, and while flowing through a mountainous district of moderate elevation, it unites with the eastern arm, the Blue Nile, Bahr-el-Azrak, which, rising further to the east out of the Abyssinian plateau, brings down a far smaller bulk of water from the Alpine glades of the snowy mountain Samen. Combined into one stream, these waters flow through a broad expanse of rock and desert, covered with conical stones of volcanic origin. The lines of hills running parallel to the terraces of the mountain rampart lie athwart the river; and through this barrier it breaks in numerous cataracts. Only in the depressions between them can the soil, refreshed with water, support vegetation. Finally, at Syene the Nile passes through the last cataract. Henceforward the structure of the mountains is changed. A fissure in the rock about 750 miles long opens on the Mediterranean; and through this the mighty river – at the last cataract it is 3,000 feet in breadth – can flow onward in undisturbed peace to the ocean.

Out of this fissure the Nile has created a narrow strip of fruitful soil – the valley is not more than three or four hours in breadth on an average – which is secured by the heights on the west from the moving sand and the storms of the great desert, and is separated by the mountain on the east from the rocky crags, the desolate flats, and sandy dunes which fill up the space between the valley of the river and the Red Sea. To this valley the mighty river not only gives a refreshing coolness and moisture by the mass of its waters, it fertilises and manures it from year to year by its overflow. At the summer solstice, when the snow on the peaks of the lofty mountains, in which the two arms of the Nile take their rise, is melting, and the tropical rains fall upon its upper course, the waters of the river slowly and gradually rise. Towards the end of July it passes over the banks and overflows the whole valley as far as the enclosing lines of hills, so that towards the end of September it stands more than twenty feet above the lowest water level. Falling as gradually as it rose after more than four months it sinks back to the ordinary level. Wherever the overflowing waters have covered the land, there is left behind a fertilising mud or slime. This is the soil which the two rivers before uniting have washed from the upper hills. Carried down by the stream, it is deposited by the gentle flow of the waters on the surface of the valley. The refreshment of the earth by the inundation, the fertilisation by this slime, and the cooling of the air by the immense body of water, are the essential advantages which Egypt owes to her river, and hence, even as early as Herodotus, Egypt seemed to be the gift of the Nile. The watering of the soil and the cooling of the air just in the very hottest months of the year, are the more invaluable because the blue and gleaming sky of the upper valley is never darkened by rain clouds, while the heat is severe, and the storms from the south-west occasionally carry the sand and the dust over the Libyan hills into the Nile. In the Delta, the region along the lowest course of the Nile, showers occasionally rise from the neighbouring sea; and through eight months of the year the whole valley opening on the Mediterranean is fanned by refreshing winds from the north, which also facilitate navigation against the stream.

This river-valley, the like of which in nature and formation is not to be found in the whole globe, offered in its seclusion a peculiarly favoured spot. It was a small green oasis of luxuriant fertility and grateful coolness in the midst of boundless deserts. The dwellers in a land whose soil was every year newly manured by nature, which brought forth abundantly almost without labour, must very soon have abandoned a pastoral life for agriculture, and in consequence have acquired fixed abodes and settled possessions. But the yearly inundation compelled them also at an early period to protect their flocks from the water, to secure their habitations, to observe the periods of the rising and falling of the stream. The long duration of the overflow made it necessary to provide for the support of man and beast. They had to learn how to carry on their dealings with each other upon the water, when the whole valley was still filled with the river, and to mark out firmly the limits of their plots, so that they might again take possession of them after the inundation. In Nubia the cataracts stopped the navigation of the river, and the lines of rock and strips of desert made intercourse difficult, and confined the life of the tribes within the limits of the native valley to their separate possessions. In Egypt, within the two lines of hills, land and river created no hindrance. A region so concentrated could not but carry the tribes beyond the limits of separate existence; the very land forced them to live a life more in common. There was only a slight natural distinction between the more secluded upper valley and the lower opening in the Delta about the mouths of the Nile; and this could merely have a stimulating effect upon the development of culture, without interfering in any way with its unity. Nevertheless the community of life in the valley of the Nile was not caused solely by the nature of the land. The tribes of the deserts around this long and narrow oasis must have had all the more lively a sense of the charm of the favoured valley owing to the difficulty with which they procured their own subsistence. Against these plundering neighbours, and their attempts to force themselves into the valley of blessing and abundance, the inhabitants of Egypt had to combine their forces. They needed a strong centralized command, a warlike monarchy, to which here, earlier than elsewhere, the patriarchal government of the tribes would therefore give way.

Egypt kept her inhabitants secluded within hard and fast limits; beyond the hills began the desert. With the increasing number of inhabitants the attempt must have been made to set low-lying marshy districts free from the excess of water, and to make fruitful the higher parts of the valley beyond the reach of the inundations by bringing the water upon them. Experience quickly taught that the plot produced the most abundant fruits on which the inundation had continued longest, and consequently had time to deposit the thickest layer of mud. Hence the attempt was made to keep the water longer on the soil by means of dykes. These objects, in regard to which the interests of the several districts differed, and which required the combination of large masses of operatives to carry them out, must have made the need of a supreme decisive and executive power felt earlier in Egypt than in other lands.

The inhabitants of Egypt found themselves surrounded by a solemn landscape, before fixed and unchanging forms and outlines, in the midst of natural phenomena, recurring with invariable regularity and always in the same succession. Such surroundings and impressions must have stamped on the young life of a ripening nation a settled, stern, and unvarying character. When the original unity and society of life, which comprises all members of the family and in the tribe, has been broken through – when at the beginning of their settled life some have turned their attention to agriculture and cattle, others to hunting and war, others again to the fulfilment of religious duties – the sons are wont to carry on the vocation of the fathers. This is the rule often in far more advanced periods; and simpler conditions of life compel the son to carry on the life of the father, in whose occupation he has grown up. In such times there is no mode of teaching and instruction but through the family. In this way the tribes and the nation part into separate circles, which carry on as an inheritance the mode of life derived from their forefathers. These divisions of occupation, of vocation, and mode of life could be carried out earlier and with greater sharpness in Egypt than in other lands.

As life becomes more settled and developed, there are always found families with an especial liking for war. They are enriched by the spoil which is the fruit of their bravery, and protect the agricultural and pastoral part of their tribe from the attacks of plunderers. Every nation gives willing honour to the brave warriors among them, and gladly recognises the superiority of a mode of life which puts life to the risk over other occupations. And when, from the early simple stage, in which every head of a family approaches the gods with his offerings in trust and confidence, religion has developed into a body of usages and customs which must be performed and followed out if any share is to be obtained in the grace of the gods, the exact knowledge of these can only be handed down from father to son. And if the mass of the population gives honour to the warriors, how much more readily will it bow down before those who, by their prayers, libations, and offerings, can bring them the fruits of the field and the blessing of the gods – protection in this world and salvation in the next! Moreover, if the families of warriors and priests, filled with the conviction of their own higher worth, disdain the occupations of the rest of the people; if they are convinced that they are of a better kind than the rest, that only from the noble and good can the noble and good arise – that better blood gives better feelings, and better birth better men – then in this feeling, so natural to a primitive era, they allow their occupation to be shared only by those who belong to their race; they take wives from their own class only, not from others; they give their daughters in marriage to their own people only. Thus the various modes of life and orders which naturally come into existence end in castes.

The more fruitful the land of Egypt, the richer the products of the soil, and the more frequent the necessity of repelling the plundering inroads of the desert tribes, the more rapidly did the distinction between the agricultural and military orders spring up. And the greater the pride with which the inhabitants of this favoured land might and did look down upon the miserable tribes of the desert, the more grateful were the looks turned towards the gods, who had given them so beautiful and productive a land in the midst of the desert, who supplied them with water, fertilised their soil, cooled the heat of the atmosphere and gave them life and plenty, while all around them reigned desolation and death. To these beneficent powers the inhabitants of the valley of the Nile could not refuse an earnest service of thanksgiving for blessings so rich and so ceaselessly renewed; by their piety they had also to provide that the gods would graciously preserve these blessings to them. It is obvious that a tone and feeling like this, arising in the population from the very nature of the land, must have been in a high degree conducive to the rise of a priestly order in Egypt.

Egypt had excellent natural boundaries. If the forces of the land were once united in a single hand, there could be no difficulty in repelling the tribes of the desert. Thenceforward there would be little reason to fear an enemy on this side of the boundary hills. No rival power could arise in the neighbouring deserts, and should any victorious state arise at a distance, the deserts checked the advance of their armies. It was much more probable that the united forces of the river-valley should subjugate the tribes of the surrounding desert. Hence the position of their land allowed the inhabitants of the valley to develop undisturbed. The culture once obtained could be quietly transmitted to others, and constantly extended. This circumstance, in connection with the domestic peace of the country under a monarchy, allowed the priesthood to extend their lore in unbroken tradition from generation to generation, while quietly amassing stores of knowledge; and with the increase of the population all the hands not required for agriculture – and in Egypt this claims but a small amount of labour – had to devote themselves to trade and manufacture. And even these arts were likely to attain the greater excellence in so far as the artisans and tillers of the ground were less disturbed by war and military service. The more distinct the boundaries of the land, the less to conquer and occupy outside them, the more industrious, amid the growing population, must have been the culture of the ground and the irrigation of it, the more actively must the artisans have pursued their trade, and industry must have developed with a greater vigour as the number of mouths requiring food increased.

So far as our knowledge reaches, the northern edge of Africa, like the valley of the Nile as far as the marshes at the foot of the Abyssinian hills, was inhabited by nations who in colour, language, and customs were sharply distinguished from the negro. These nations belong to the whites: their languages were most closely allied to the Semitic.[1 - Bunsen, "Ægypten," 5, 1, 75 ff.; Ebers, "Ægypten and die Bücher Moses," p. 43; Renan ("Histoire générale et système comparé des langues Sémitiques") will not admit this close connection.] From this, and from their physical peculiarities, the conclusion has been drawn that these nations at some time migrated from Asia to the soil of Africa. They formed a vast family, whose dialects still continue in the language of the Berbers. Assisted by the favourable conditions of their land, the tribe which settled on the Lower Nile quickly left their kinsmen far behind. Indeed the latter hardly rose above a pastoral life. The descendants of these old inhabitants of the valley of the Nile, in spite of the numerous layers which the course of centuries has subsequently laid upon the soil of the land, still form the larger part of the population of Egypt, and the ancient language is preserved in the dialect of the Copts.[2 - Brugsch ("Histoire d'Egypte," pp. 5, 6) explains the name Egypt by ha-ka-ptah, i. e. "the precinct of Ptah." As Ptah was more especially the god of Memphis, this name would have come from Memphis. The attempt has been repeatedly made to derive the civilisation of Egypt from Ethiopia and Meroe. But the problem of the origin of a given civilisation is not solved by removing it from the locality where it exists in full bloom to another, and as a rule more unknown, district. In the case before us this assumption is met by the peculiar difficulty, that the culture of Egypt is influenced essentially by the nature of the land, and therefore can hardly have had an external origin. It cannot be removed from a highly favoured locality into a district extremely hot, and fruitful only in detached oases, without making the explanation of its origin much more difficult. Moreover, the lower valley of the Nile has always ruled over the upper: even in mediæval and modern times. The inscriptions of Sargon, king of Assyria (722-705 B.C.), mention the king of Meroe (Miluhhi); those of Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) tell us, "The kings of Egypt have summoned the archers, the chariots, the horses of the king of Miluhhi." The inscriptions of Esarhaddon (681-668 B.C.) speak of the "King of Egypt and Miluhhi," whom they also name "King of Egypt and Cush;" and the successor of Esarhaddon directed his first campaign against "Tarku" (Thirhaka) "of Egypt and Miluhhi." The word Meroe, therefore, as the name of a kingdom lying above Egypt on the Nile, must have been in use in Syria, even in the eighth century B.C. Hence the Greeks denote by this name an island, and also a city of the Upper Nile. According to Herodotus (2, 29) the great city Meroe, "which ought to be the chief city of the rest of the Ethiopians" (i. e. of those of whom the Egyptians were not the immediate neighbours), was forty days' journey and twelve days' sail (i. e. over 15,000 stadia) above Syene. Later authorities, Eratosthenes, Artemidorus, Strabo, Pliny, Ptolemy reduce the distance by nearly one-half; they regard the distance between Meroe and Syene as nearly equal to the distance from Syene to Alexandria, and fix the whole distance from Alexandria to Meroe at 10,000 to 12,000 stadia. As the town and island of Meroe must be south of the junction of the Astaboras (Atbara), (Strabo, p. 786), we must look for the island between the Atbara and the Blue Nile, and for the city in the ruins at the modern Begerauieh. Yet the chief town of the kingdom of Meroe, when it takes an active part in history, is not Begerauieh. King Thirhaka's residence lay near the modern Meraui under Mount Barkal. The name in inscriptions is Neb, and, consequently, in Greek and Latin Napata. Even under the Sesurtesen and Amenemha, Egypt ruled over Nubia as far as Semne and Kumna, under Amenophis III. as far as Soleb, and under Ramses II. as far as Mt. Barkal. The oldest ruins at this spot belong to a temple dedicated by this king to Ammon (Lepsius, "Reisebriefe," s. 238); next come the ruins of the buildings of Thirhaka, which differ as little from Egyptian buildings as those which he and his two Ethiopian predecessors erected in Egypt. Moreover, the later ruins found at Napata, especially some twenty small pyramids, are feeble imitations of Egyptian art. The same character of imitation is stamped upon the monuments of Begerauieh, though here it is mingled with foreign elements. This place, further removed from Egypt, and therefore more secure, was beyond doubt the residence of the kings of Meroe, at least from the time of Cambyses, and it was named after the country. Herodotus points out that Zeus and Dionysus, i. e. Osiris, were worshipped here, and that the oracle of Zeus, i. e. of Ammon, extended its authority over the Ethiopians: the further accounts which Diodorus preserves of this priesthood give a poor idea of their cultivation (3, 3 ff. Strabo, pp. 827, 828). At the time of the second Ptolemy, this priesthood was destroyed by the King, Ergamenes, whose name (Arkamen) Lepsius has discovered on ruins at Mt. Barkal, as well as Begerauieh, and an independent monarchy was established. Hence we must entirely give up the idea of deriving the supposed supremacy of the priesthood in Egypt, a supremacy which never existed here, from the priesthood formed at Begerauieh after the time of Thirhaka and Psammetichus (in the days of Psammetichus, Herodotus tells us that a king of the Ethiopians received strangers without an oracle, and gave them land, 2, 30); that is, in the sixth century B.C., which continued to exist till 250 B.C. Still less reason is there to suppose that the so-called Indian supremacy of the priesthood came through Meroe into Egypt. Rather we may feel ourselves justified in assuming that the elements of civilisation which took root on the middle Nile passed from Egypt to that district. In the inscriptions of Begerauieh the name Meroe occurs as Meru, and Merua, i. e. "White rock"; Lepsius, l. c. 205-232. As the banks of the Nile, here and also at Mt. Barkal, consist of whitish-yellow chalk rocks, the name of the land and its southern metropolis, of which the existence since the sixth century B.C. is demonstrated, may have been named from this peculiarity of the land.]




In the eighteenth century B.C., according to their reckoning, the tradition of the Hebrews presents us with a complete picture of court and civic life in the valley of the Nile, and it tells us of the building of cities in the east of the Delta, which, according to the same computation, must have been founded about the year 1550 B.C. The Homeric poems contain accounts of the land of Ægyptus, of the fair-flowing Zeus-born river of the same name, of the very beautiful fields and cities of Egypt, of princes who fought from their chariots, and finally of "Egyptian Thebes, where in the palaces lie the greatest treasures; a city with a hundred gates, from each of which go forth two hundred men with horses and chariots." They also add "that the fruitful earth bears abundance of drugs in Egypt, some mingled for good, others for evil, and there every one is a physician and has acquaintance with men; they are all sprung from the god of healing."[3 - "Il." 9, 381; "Od." 4, 230 ff. 477, 581. 14, 257, 264 ff. 17, 426.]

According to the account given by the Greeks the Egyptians boasted to be the oldest of mankind, and to possess the most ancient traditions.[4 - Herod. 2, 2; Diod. 1, 10, 50; Plat. Tim. p. 23.] Their priests believed that they could compute the history of Egypt by thousands of years. When Herodotus was in Egypt about the middle of the fifth century B.C., the priests at Thebes read to him from a book the names of 331 kings who had reigned from Menes, the first ruler of Egypt, and the founder of Memphis, down to Moeris inclusive; among these were eighteen Ethiopians, and one queen; the rest were Egyptians. After Moeris came Sesostris, Pheron, Proteus, Rhampsinitus, Cheops and Chephren, Mycerinus, Asychis, Anysis, Sabakon, and Sethos, so that from Menes to Sethos 341 kings had reigned over Egypt in as many generations. Herodotus remarks that the priests assured him that they had an accurate knowledge of what they said, for the years were always enumerated and put down. To convince him they carried him into the great temple at Thebes and showed him there 345 wooden colossi of the chief priests who had presided over the temple through as many generations, in regular succession from father to son; for every chief priest placed his statue here during his own life-time. Before these kings and chief priests the gods had ruled over Egypt; first the Eight Gods, then the Twelve, then Osiris the Greek Dionysus, after him Typhon, and, last of all, Horus. From the time of King Amasis (570-526 B.C.) to the time of Osiris 15,000 years had passed, but from the time of the Twelve Gods to Amasis 17,000 years.[5 - Herod. 2, 100, 142, 143.]

Herodotus does not conceal the doubts raised in his mind by the high antiquity claimed in these accounts by the priests. He found an especial difficulty in the fact that Dionysus Osiris, who, according to his computation, was born 1,600 years at the most before his own time (i. e. about 2050 B.C.), must have lived more than 15,000 years earlier, according to the assertion of the Egyptians. By their account 341 kings reigned from Menes to Sethos; and on this basis Herodotus reckoned the duration and commencement of the Egyptian kingdom. He took 33⅓ years as the length of a generation, and thus Menes must have begun to reign 340 generations, or 11,340 years before the accession of Sethos. Further, Herodotus placed over 150 years between the accession of Sethos and the death of Amasis, and thus according to his data we get the enormous total of 11,500 years for the duration of the Egyptian kingdom from Menes till its overthrow by the Persians. Menes therefore must have ascended the throne before the year 12000 B.C.; the rule of Osiris commenced 15500 B.C.; and that of the Twelve Gods 17500 B.C.

If we leave the gods out of the question, and reduce the length of a generation, which Herodotus has put too high, to its real average of twenty-five years, the 340 generations with those of Sethos, Psammetichus, Necho, Psammetichus II., Apries, and Amasis, make up 8,650 years, and since the Persians took Egypt in 525 B.C., the beginning of the reign of Menes still falls in the year 9175 B.C. This incredible fact is not made more credible because Plato represents an Egyptian priest asserting to Solon that the annals of Sais reached back 8,000 years; or speaks in the "Laws" of works of Egyptian art, ten thousand years old.[6 - Plato, "Tim." p. 23; "De Leg." p. 657.]

Four hundred years after Herodotus, Diodorus travelled to Egypt.[7 - Diodorus, 1, 44, 45, Olympiad 180, i. e. between 60 and 56 B.C.] He tells that, according to some fabulous accounts, gods and heroes first ruled over Egypt for something less than 18,000 years. The last of these was Horus, the son of Isis. After these came 470 native kings, of whom the first was Menes, before the time of the Macedonian and Persian rule, and also four Ethiopian kings and five queens. The Ethiopians did not immediately succeed each other, but at intervals, and their united reigns amounted to a little less than thirty-six years. "Of all these kings the priests have sketches in their holy books, handed down through successive generations from extreme antiquity, showing how tall each king was, what he was like, and what he accomplished in his reign." If we place the reign of Menes 479 generations before Cambyses, this computation, on the reckoning of Herodotus, would place the accession of Menes in the year 16492 B.C.; taking a shorter average length for the generations, we may bring it to the year 12500 B.C. But Diodorus shows from other accounts that this mode of computation is inadmissible. He tells us that the priests of Egypt numbered about 23,000[8 - Or, according to another version, more than 10,000 years from Osiris to Alexander. More than 10,000 years had passed, according to the Egyptians, since the creation of the first man. – Diod. 1, 23, 24.] years from the reign of Helius or Hephæstus, who, according to other priests, was the first of the gods to reign,[9 - Diod. 1, 13, 14.] till the entrance of Alexander into Asia (334 B.C.). If of this total we allow about 18,000 years to the gods, the accession of Menes would have to be placed about the year 5300 B.C.[10 - Ibid. 1, 69.] But as Diodorus also says that something less than 5,000 years had elapsed since the first human king to his arrival in Egypt, Menes' reign would fall about the year 5000 B.C. Diodorus fixes the accession of this king even more closely when he remarks, in a third passage, that the Egyptians assured him that, "for more than 4,700 years, kings, mostly natives, had ruled, and the land had prospered greatly under them."[11 - Diod. 1, 63.] With this agrees the further account given by Diodorus, that according to some the largest pyramid was built 3,400 years before his time. According to this Menes cannot be carried back further than 4,800 years B.C.

If Menes founded the kingdom of Egypt 4,800 years B.C., it continued for 4,275 years under native kings; and if in this period 346 kings ascended the throne, as Herodotus says, or 479, as Diodorus, the average duration of each reign would be in the first case more than twelve years, in the second less than nine, which contradicts all credible history. The lowest average of oriental reigns is fifteen years.

Still, from these accounts of Herodotus and Diodorus it is clear that the priests of Egypt possessed lists of the kings in long series, and that, according to their view, gods and demigods had ruled over Egypt for thousands of years before the earliest of these kings. After Greek princes had ascended the throne of the Pharaohs, and Egypt with its monuments and writings was opened to the research of the Greeks, Eratosthenes, who was the head of the library at Alexandria in the second half of the third century B.C., studied the history of these old kings – at "the royal request," as Georgius Syncellus tells us – in the old annals and lists of the Egyptians, and transcribed these lists in the Hellenic language.[12 - Syncell. p. 91, ed. Goar.] This compilation of Eratosthenes contained the names and reigns of thirty-eight kings of Thebes. Syncellus repeats the list, and adds: "Here ended the rule of the thirty-eight kings who were called Theban in Egypt, whose names Eratosthenes collected out of the sacred books of Thebes and translated into the Hellenic language. The names of the fifty-three Theban kings who followed these have been also preserved by Apollodorus; but we consider it superfluous to add them, for even the list of the first is of no use."[13 - Syncell. p. 12.] Thus the researches of the Alexandrine Greeks had brought together a list of ninety-one kings, ninety successors of Menes, out of the writings of the priests of Thebes. As early as the time of Eratosthenes the Egyptians assisted the researches of the Greeks. About the middle of the third century B.C., that is, in the time of the second and third Ptolemy, an Egyptian named Manetho (Ma-n-thoth = "loved by Thoth"), of Sebennytus, and apparently scribe to the temple at Thebes,[14 - Bœckh, "Manetho," p. 395.] composed in Greek a work on the history of Egypt in three books. "Obviously possessed of Hellenic culture" – so we find it in Josephus – "Manetho wrote the history of his country in Greek, translating it, as he tells us, from the sacred writings; he undertook to interpret Egyptian history from the sacred writings."[15 - "C. Apion." c. 14, 26.] This work of Manetho was lost at an early period; all that remains is the list of the dynasties, a third part of the names of the kings, and a few fragments; and even these remnants we possess only in excerpts by a second or third hand. Manetho begins his history of Egypt with the rule of the gods. First came Ptah, the creative god of light, and the great gods, then the demigods, and Manes. After these had ruled over Egypt for 24,857 Egyptian years, according to the excerpt of Africanus, that is for 24,820 Julian years, the rule of human kings begins with Menes, and these continued through thirty dynasties for 5,366 years. As Manetho closes his list of the kings of Egypt with the last year of Nectanebos, who rebelled against Artaxerxes Ochus —i. e. with the year 340 B.C. – Menes must have founded the kingdom in the year 5706 B.C., or rather, if we reduce the Egyptian years of Manetho's reckoning to Julian years, in the year 5702 B.C.[16 - Bœckh, "Manetho," p. 769 ff.] This statement carries us back to a far less remote antiquity than the computation of the date of Menes by 346 generations previous to Cambyses; on the other hand, it goes 900 years higher than the date which we deduced from Diodorus.

What amount of authority should be ascribed to the lists of Manetho? Did the priests really possess sketches of kings and accounts of their reigns reaching back more than 5,000 years? In order to believe this, must we not allow that at such a remote time as the reign of Menes, or soon after it, writing was known and in use in Egypt? And granting this, must not the first beginning of culture in Egypt be carried back at least 500 years before Menes? Moreover, the lists do not correspond with the number of the kings given by Herodotus, or by Diodorus. Herodotus, as we said, put 346 generations before the time of Cambyses, Diodorus gave 479 kings before the same date. The excerpt of Africanus from Manetho, even if we substitute the smaller numbers given in the excerpt of Eusebius in all the dynasties, of which only the total sum of the rulers is stated, still gives us 388 kings from Menes to Cambyses.[17 - Reinisch reckons 389 kings from Menes to Cambyses, "Zeitschrift d. d. M. Ges." 15,251; Brugsch's table gives 334 royal shields from Menes to Cambyses.] If these discrepancies awaken the suspicion that the number and the succession of the kings was not agreed upon even by the priests themselves, the suspicion is increased by the fact that the lists do not tally in the various excerpts in which they have come down to us. What weight can be given to a list which, in the excerpt from Africanus, allows 953 years (or 802 at the least) to the rule of the Hyksos, and in the excerpt of Eusebius allows 103 years, and again 511 years in the excerpt of Josephus? Still greater discrepancies appear if we compare the list of Eratosthenes with the names and numbers handed down to us from Manetho's work. Both lists begin with Menes; both allow him a reign of sixty-two years; but Eratosthenes describes his thirty-eight kings as of Theban origin or race, while in Manetho the first Theban dynasty began to reign 2,240 years after Menes.[18 - According to Bœckh's "Kanon des Africanus."] Nevertheless the names of the first three or four rulers in Eratosthenes agree with those in Manetho. Then the coincidence breaks off till the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth names in Eratosthenes, to which corresponding names are found in Manetho's list, but in the twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth places; and from this point to the end of the list of Eratosthenes there are only two or three names to which corresponding names are found in Manetho, and these occur at far greater intervals in the series. The last name in Eratosthenes nearly corresponds to the name of the king, in Manetho, under whom the invasion of the Hyksos took place. If, therefore, we assume that the list of Eratosthenes was intended to enumerate the kings who ruled over Egypt to this date, we find thirty-eight kings who must have reigned through 1076 years; and, as parallel to these, we find in Manetho fourteen dynasties with at least 241 kings, occupying a period of 3,084 years.

Scarcely less striking are the contradictions in the monuments themselves. In the temple of Ammon at Karnak, which was extended on a magnificent scale by Tuthmosis III. (1591-1565 B.C.),[19 - This, like the following dates, is from Lepsius, see below.] the king is delineated twice in a colossal form on the back wall of a chamber. Between the two pictures sit sixty-four kings in four rows one over the other. The inscription, "A royal offering for the kings of both Egypts," as well as the position of Tuthmosis, shows that he is offering prayer and sacrifice to his predecessors in the kingdom. Of these sixty-four kings, three are the immediate predecessors of Tuthmosis, Tuthmosis I., II., and Amosis. Before Amosis this table puts fifty-seven kings; the name of Menes is wanting; but in Manetho's list there are nevertheless no fewer than 284 kings,[20 - Not including the thirty-eight shepherd kings; if these are added the number reaches 322.] from Menes to Amosis, with whom, in the excerpt of Africanus, the eighteenth dynasty begins. In the great temple built by Sethos I. (1439-1388, B.C.) at Abydus in honour of Osiris, this prince, with his son Ramses, may be seen on the wall of a passage offering prayer and incense to his predecessors in the kingdom. There are seventy-six shields with names, beginning with the shield of Menes. The last is the shield of Sethos, who in this way is represented as offering prayer to himself, among the rest. Down to Amenemha IV., the close of the twelfth dynasty (2179-2171 B.C.), there reigned, according to Manetho's list 104 kings, but the table of Sethos gives sixty-five shields for the interval from Menes to Amenemha IV. From this king to Sethos, the first prince of the nineteenth dynasty, Manetho's list gives 193 kings, excluding the shepherd kings, whereas the table of Sethos shows only ten shields for this interval.[21 - Dümichen and Lepsius, "Zeitschrift für Aegyptische Sprache," 1864, p. 81 ff. Deveria and Mariette, "Revue Archéolog." 1865, p. 50 ff; 1866 (13), p. 73 ff.] Nothing in the way of explanation is to be obtained from the monuments of this kind belonging to the time of Ramses II. (1388-1322 B.C.) On the wall of the portico between the first and second court of the Ramesseum, the great temple built by Ramses II. at Thebes, on the left bank of the Nile, there is a picture in which the statues of thirteen predecessors in the kingdom are carried in procession before the king. There are eleven kings up to Amosis; before him is the figure of Mentuophis; then Menes. In the little temple built by Ramses II. at Abydus in honour of Osiris, there is a tablet, on which Ramses is represented offering adoration to the manes of his predecessors. On this we can make out fifty shields, but only about thirty are sufficiently uninjured to be legible; so far as we can tell this table is only a repetition of the table of Sethos in the great temple of Abydus. A third series of the kings of this period has been discovered in the tombs at Sakkarah. In the tomb of Tunari, the kings' scribe and architect, there is a representation of the sacrifice of Ramses II. for the deceased kings of Upper and Lower Egypt. Here we find fifty-seven shields; immediately before Ramses II. is Sethos, Ramses I., and Horus, then six illegible names; and before these Amosis. Before Amosis are forty-six shields, of which the first can perhaps be compared with the king mentioned in the sixth place after Menes in Manetho's list.[22 - Mariette in "Revue Archéolog.," 1864 (10), p. 170.]

The variations of these tables from the lists may be explained by assuming that it depended on the particular view and peculiar object of the kings who erected these monuments, which of their predecessors they wished to honour, and which they wished to exclude. But even a manuscript list of kings, which has come down to us, exhibits numerous and very considerable variations from Manetho's lists. This list is a papyrus, now in Turin, supposed to belong to the period 1500-1000 B.C. It begins with the rule of the gods; then follow the names of the kings, with the length of their reigns in years, months, and days, down to the time of the Tuthmosis; and thus it includes the first seventeen dynasties of Manetho's list. It has been much damaged, and therefore we can only discover that about 240 names were given, of which, however, about 100 are entirely gone; and of the others the lesser half at least is hardly legible. As has been remarked, Manetho numbers at least 284 kings to the eighteenth dynasty. Moreover, the papyrus does not agree with Manetho in the division of the dynasties; at certain places, which do not coincide with the sections of Manetho, totals are given of the preceding reigns. The first king after the gods is Mena (Menes), but of the names which follow only a few agree with those in Manetho, and a few more with those of the tables of Karnak, Abydus, and Sakkarah.[23 - Brugsch, "Hist. d'Egypte," pp. 20, 44, 72; Devéria, loc. cit. p. 58 ff.] But here also the same names occupy different places in the series.

If in addition to all these variations and discrepancies we add the fact that even in the contemporary monuments and inscriptions which have come down to us there is no lack of contradictions to Manetho's statements – if too these monuments have not been erected or preserved in sufficient continuity, nor are of a sufficiently ample kind, to form an adequate check upon the papyrus of Turin, or the tables of kings or the list of Manetho – we must give up the hope of ascertaining the antiquity and course of Egyptian history on such data. One thing only comes out clear and irrefragable from the tables of Karnak, Abydus, and Sakkarah, no less than the Turin papyrus. Long before Herodotus was in Egypt, long before Manetho wrote his Egyptian history, in the fifteenth century B.C. Menes was considered the first king of Egypt. Even then lists of the kings were in existence, and the priests had made a sketch of the history of their land, in which the rule of the gods preceded the rule of human kings.

Modern research has attempted in various ways to find the key to the puzzle of these long and confused series of kings made by the Egyptian priests. Assuming that the names of the kings and the length of their reigns, and the number of reigns belonging to each dynasty, has been handed down correctly by Manetho, but that some of these dynasties were contemporaneous, the attempt has been made to give such a selection from the dynasties of Manetho as would supply a continuous thread for Egyptian history. Thus from the dynasties expressly marked as Memphitic, or Theban, a series may be formed which shortens the calculation of Manetho by at least 1,000 years. We might proceed further in this direction, and reduce Manetho's list by 2,000 or 3,000 years. According to the separate items in the excerpts preserved, Manetho's thirty dynasties include a series of 5,366 Egyptian years (from the year 5702 to the year 340 B.C.); nevertheless, Syncellus, in a passage of his Chronology, has observed that the whole period of history treated by Manetho in his three books covered 3,555 years.[24 - P. 98.] This observation has been used to prove that Manetho himself arranged several dynasties contemporaneously; and thus, by taking the whole total of years given by Syncellus as a basis, the year 3892 B.C. has been fixed as the first year of the reign of Menes. No doubt a selection may be made from the dynasties of Manetho in such a way that the sum total of the reigns included in it will carry us no farther back than this year.[25 - Gutschmid in the "Philologus," 10, 672.] But it is clear from the accounts of Herodotus and Diodorus that the series of kings made by the Egyptian priests were strictly successive; and this fact is abundantly confirmed by the Turin papyrus and the excerpts preserved from Manetho himself. The 3,555 years which Syncellus brings forward cannot, in the face of his own excerpt, be taken as a number really derived from Manetho, and with this number all the calculations founded upon it fall to the ground.[26 - The number of 113 generations, which Syncellus gives as contemporaneous, does not in the least agree with the accounts of Manetho; moreover, Gutschmid has shown from what items the number 3,555 in Syncellus has arisen in "Beiträge zur Geschichte des alten Orients," s. 9.]